Methodism came to this country from England in 1784. The following year Matthew Greentree and Adam Cloud were appointed as circuit riders to this part of New Jersey. They began to hold regular meetings in a Hightstown Tavern owned by Adam Shaw, which was near the site of the Old Hights Hotel.
In 1786, John McClosky and Ezekiel Cooper were appointed to the circuit and continued to teach at the tavern. However, they were not satisfied to continue preaching at a tavern and stated that they would not return the following year unless a more suitable place was found.
A young man, named Robert Hutchinson, heard of the possible ending of the services. Upon returning to his home in Milford (now Etra), he invited his uncle, Joseph Hutchinson, to attend the next services in Hightstown. After hearing the sermon, Josesph Hutchinson invited the preachers to hold regular services in his home instead of the tavern. A Methodist Society was soon organized, and three of the original members became preachers.
Soon after the society was organized, Joseph Hutchinson erected a small wooden church which 30 by 50 feet. The church was located on the east side of Milford, overlooking the pond, and across the road from the cemetery. By 1825, the society had grown to forty members and plans were made to enlarge the structure. When the plans failed, members from Hightstown proposed to return the place of worship back to Hightstown and erect a new building there. So, after fifty years in Milford, the church moved back to Hightstown. All that remains of the Milford church is the cemetery, which was declared an historical site by East Windsor Township.
In 1835, a brick church was erected in Hightstown. It still stands on the corner of Church Street across from the present church. From 1835 to 1852, the church was connected with the Allentown and Crosswicks circuit.
In 1857, the brick church gave way to a much larger frame building located in the middle of the block on Church Street. This building served as the church until the turn of the century, when the present church was erected. The old frame church was sold to M. P. Chamberlin, who used it for concerts and it became known as the Opera House . Sadly, the frame church was destroyed by fire on April 14, 1929.
The cornerstone of our present building was laid in 1898. At that time, the property was about one quarter its present size, but it did include a parking area for wagons and a shed for horses. The pipe organ was installed in 1931. There have been several renovations to the church over the years. Among them are: roof (1957, early 1970's), sanctuary (1946, 1986), heating system (1946, 1996), office (1989), education area (1946), kitchen (1991), and stained glass windows (1970's, 1996).
It has been a challenge to keep our church worthy of being called a house of God. But with over 200 years of dedication by our church forefathers to build upon, the First United Methodist Church of Hightstown will continue to serve the needs of this area for years to come.
On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church, and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas. With the words, "Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church," the new denomination was given birth by two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.
Theological traditions steeped in the Protestant Reformation and Wesleyanism, similar ecclesiastical structures, and relationships that dated back almost two hundred years facilitated the union. In the Evangelical United Brethren heritage, for example, Philip William Otterbein, the principal founder of the United Brethren in Christ, assisted in the ordination of Francis Asbury to the superintendency of American Methodist work. Jacob Albright, through whose religious experience and leadership the Evangelical Association was begun, was nurtured in a Methodist class meeting following his conversion.
Read more about the history of The United Methodist Church by year:
Roots (1736-1816) | Español
The United Methodist Church shares a common history and heritage with other Methodist and Wesleyan bodies. The lives and ministries of John Wesley (1703–1791) and of his brother, Charles (1707–1788), mark the origin of their common roots.
The Churches Grow (1817-1843) | Español
The Second Great Awakening was the dominant religious development among Protestants in America in the first half of the nineteenth century. Through revivals and camp meetings sinners were brought to an experience of conversion. Circuit riding preachers and lay pastors knit them into a connection.
The Slavery Question and Civil War (1844-1865) | Español
John Wesley was an ardent opponent of slavery. Many of the leaders of early American Methodism shared his hatred for this form of human bondage. As the nineteenth century progressed, it became apparent that tensions were deepening in Methodism over the slavery question.
Reconstruction, Prosperity, and New Issues (1866-1913) | Español
The Civil War dealt an especially harsh blow to The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Its membership fell to two-thirds its pre-war strength. Many of its churches lay in ruins or were seriously damaged.
World War and More Change, 1914–1939 | Español
In the years immediately prior to World War I, there was much sympathy in the churches for negotiation and arbitration as visible alternatives to international armed conflict. Many church members and clergy openly professed pacifism.
Movement Toward Union (1940-1967) | Español
Although Methodists, Evangelicals, and United Brethren each had published strong statements condemning war and advocating peaceful reconciliation among the nations, the strength of their positions was largely lost with American involvement in the hostilities of World War II.
Developments and Changes Since 1968 | Español
When The United Methodist Church was created in 1968, it had approximately 11 million members, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House.